Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”
What happened next sincerely horrified me.
I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.
Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.
If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:
For the last month or so I’ve been talking to various art galleries and collectors about having an exhibition of the “Portraits of the 99%” series. The images are 12×18 and are mounted on 7/8″ thick wood with a white vinyl siding and they are absolutely beautiful. However, it’s very impractical to carry around all 354 of them to show to people, so I’ve put together an exhibition catalog that features all of the images up until now along with some behind the scenes photos, a forward by myself and a few color versions of the portraits. It’s a 26 page perfect bound catalog a book practically, and I’m really excited about it. You can get your hands on one for $20.00 from Magcloud, as well as a digital download for 5.00. The entire catalog is online for preview as well, so you can also just check it out and let me know what you think.
All proceeds from the sales of these catalogs go into the mounting and framing process in preparation for exhibition. You can get it HERE.
Quick post today, I wanted to share the interview that KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland did with me on the project last night. (I can’t post the video but you can click the thumbnail and watch it on their page)
I’m very excited at the opportunities that could come of this, some of you know that I have been shopping around for a gallery to hang these images in and this has already gotten me a few phone calls.
The other thing I wanted to share was the jump into color:
I’ve been working on a new promo to send to magazines showing that I am a portrait photographer. I thought what better way to do this then use some of my most well known work but something felt a bit off to me. So now I’ve been playing with really tight crops and color images from the “Portraits of the 99%” series. Let me know how you like it!
After all of the hard work I’ve put into my “Portraits of the 99%” project (With still a lot more hard work to come in the future) I’m proud to announce the launch of www.Portraitsofthe99.com, a site dedicated solely to the project. The IndieGoGo page is what initially got this project off the ground, but it’s going to expire soon – so I wanted a more permanent place that people could go to donate, buy prints and posters or just look at all of the photos. The site not only showcases all of the portraits but it also has a schedule of my travel and a press section to show when and where the images have been published.
If you’re interested in purchasing a specific print go and check it out. The portraits are sorted by city so if our photo is on my site or your friend’s photo or you’re a collector choosing a favorite this is the place to do that. All of the money goes back into the project (After shipping/printing costs etc) and will contribute to me traveling the country and documenting this massive upheaval of people across the world.
Thank you once again for all of your support. It really has been amazing and while it’s a little late it’s looking to the be one of the main things I am thankful for this year.
Over the weekend I was asked if I could run a photo booth at an art fair being thrown by local Antiques dealer Stuff. They had food and music and plenty of artists selling their wares, but they wanted something fun, something more interactive. They got in touch with me and I was invited out to run a photo-booth, and I could sell my own wares as well.
I don’t often get to do these sorts of things, so I decided to run with it. I grabbed some old prints and got a small table and set up shop. I sold a few things and people had a blast at the photo booth. Here are some of my favorites:
For those of you wondering, I used a Polaroid Pogo printer, which prints unique 2×3 images that double as stickers. It’s battery powered, works with most digital cameras and is loads of fun to use.
For those of you who live in San Francisco who haven’t yet been to Adobe‘s Photoshop & you event at 550 Sutter St: Shame on you. Even if you’re not big into photoshop, or still shoot film – you should go. The event takes place over the course of 2 weeks from July 23rd to August 6th. They offer classes, lectures, demonstrations and raffles – all for free. You can view the full calender of Events at their website.
I’m really busy over the next week because I’m working on 2 films that are being submitted to Sundance, but I was able to make it to some of the weekend events – WOW.
Scott Kelby, if you don’t know who he is, is an educator, photoshopper, founder of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and an excellent photographer as well. He also tours the world giving his famous “Light it, shoot it, retouch it” seminar which he normally charges hundreds of dollars for. At the Photoshop & you event, he gave it to a room full of people for free.
It was an amazing talk, he worked with 2 models and did exactly what the name of the seminar says: He lit it, shot it and retouched it, all live. What was different about this session was he was working with continuous lighting so he let the crowd photograph the models as well. Personally, this is not something I did because I like to create my own things rather than work on something that has been done for me but it was still a blast.
After each shoot he demonstrated some retouching techniques in both Photoshop and Lightroom, and in the end did an amazing composite with the above model by placing her into a grungy alley and making it seem like she was really there, all in a matter of minutes. It was very educational and entertaining, Scott is a great presenter and a pretty nice guy as well.
After his seminar he agreed to do an interview with The Candid Frame’s Ibarionex Perello, which should be coming out next month.
Like I said, even if you’re not a photoshop junkie you should go. Go check out the calender of events, there are some great things happening there until August 6th. There’s some great people there who are happy to meet other photographers or retouchers and the chance to see and experience all of this for free is a really great opportunity.
After several months of researching, designing, proofing and prototyping, my new 3D folding promo is coming out! It was a pretty large project to undertake, as we went through many concepts for the layout and design but finally came up with a design that would work. The initial inspiration was from the Cirque du Soleil Kooza soundtrack.
After some modification we made several smaller prototypes and tested them out before ordering them.
As for actually ordering the pieces I ran into some problems. The final dimensions of the promo when laid out on a flat sheet of paper were 21×13. To get a custom dye cut in that size would be very expensive so I decided to order everything on a 10 point coated poster stock and throw a party and assemble them by hand.
It was 4th of July weekend after all, so I threw on a pot roast, got some beer and invited a bunch of friends. It took us all day, but ultimately was worth it. I’m very grateful to have friends that will help me out with big projects like this – creative people do have lives outside of their profession(sometimes).
The QR code isn’t active yet, so don’t even try. Eventually it will link to a hidden page on my website that will host a video that is essentially a commercial for me. Check out the promo in action below:
I received a few emails from some potential clients this weekend, each of which were both involved the same industry; custom high end tailoring and clothing.
Each client asked me what my day and half day rates were. I explained to them (in as few sentences as possible) that I don’t work by day rates. The services I can offer them are of more value that can be measured on a clock.
My services include (but are not limited to): Photography, (of course!) access and use of Makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe specialists and location scouts, a full retouching studio for light or heavy retouching and print services.
I said it would not be fair to throw a price at them if I simply did not know what it was that they needed, and with internet marketing clients’ needs are so specific that it’s only fair that you are compensated for catering to those specific needs.
I also feel that it’s easy to be taken advantage of by using a day rate or half day rate. If something takes far more or far less time than anticipated, you’re stuck either sitting around doing nothing or rushing around trying to finish within the day. Something will always happen that is out of you or your client’s control, and you may not be compensated well enough to handle those situations.
On the other side of the coin, I can totally see why clients like the consistency of day rates. It may help them plan their budget better. Because of this, you must become very skilled at putting together accurate, all encompassing estimates and bids. I can see how a day rate works for studio photographers, or senior portrait photographers. It’s a different type of clientele. But speaking as someone from the advertising and editorial world, I have chosen to eliminate day rates from my vocabulary.
Check out Shakodo for pricing tips and advice, it’s free to join and frankly it’s a really amazing resource.
So for the last few weeks I have been working on my portfolio. Not shooting for it specifically, because you know, you’re ALWAYS working on your portfolio, what I’m talking about is physically ASSEMBLING a series of prints into a book to show to current and potential clients.
Building a portfolio is hard. You have to somehow set aside your pride and ego and look at your work objectively so you can edit, arrange and make it the best presentation of your work. Sometimes a favorite photo of yours has to be edited out, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of them. This alienates you, because you feel such a great attachment to this photo. So you go back and fourth and back and fourth and you question your worth as an artist and pretty soon you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So yesterday I made the mistake of saying “My portfolio is DONE. This is the most comprehensive collection of my work that I have ever put into a book.” Well first of all, of COURSE it is. It SHOULD be, being the newest work. Mixing in some old with the new, it should cover all the things I’m good at and show the new things I’m good at. Second of all, a portfolio is NEVER done.
I was showing this book to a client today, and between the time I had said that and this morning I had a little itch at the back of my neck. I kept going back and going through the portfolio, over and over again. By the time I got to the meeting with the client I was very nervous, and it was all because I declared to myself that it was “Done.”
So here’s a few tips to avoid that stress:
Your portfolio needs to show your absolute BEST work. Even something a little bit weak will bring the rest of the images down. Choice of subject is very important. If you’re a still-life photographer show-still life. If you shoot people show people. Your lighting, techniques and moods should be similar, but not the same for every image. It’s ok for you to take sensitive portraits of someone and later in the book show something with a sense of humor, as long as it still looks like it was taken by the same photographer.
Versatility and Flow
This is going to sound hypocritical, but you must display consistency AND variety in your work, or you won’t be getting any. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but just enough to get your client to look a second time. This also creates a flow throughout your book, you need to keep visual interest. The last thing you want the flow of your book to flatline, it’ll be boring. You want it to ebb and flow, rise and fall, over and over again.
Edit, edit, edit
Make little thumbnail prints of all the images you want to include in your book, and lay them out. Remove the ones that don’t work, and then do it again. And again. And again. Then have a few friends over for some drinks and have THEM look at it. Show it to a peer, or graphic designer friend. Your portfolio should contain no less than 10 photos (Any fewer would be too short) and no more than 20. (Any more would be ridiculous) And remember, nothing but your VERY BEST.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there deal with the stress of portfolio building and showing better. My meeting went fine, as long as you believe in your work (And it’s good work) and show confidence throughout your showing you will have a better chance than some of coming through and getting a new client.
The reason behind the lack of updates around here is because I have been on a bit of a working vacation. I have been in New Zealand for the past 3 weeks, doing work for an orchestra in Auckland and working on my new promos.
What’s that you say? What kind of a vacation is that?? It’s a damn good one if you ask me. Being away from home and only having a little bit of work to do has given me a lot of time to work on things I have been putting off. My new promo for example:
Also what I’ve had time to work on is the list of companies I’m sending them to. And you photographers know how big of a deal that is.
That’s not to say that my work with the orchestra and the time spent on the marketing piece has taken up all of my time – most of my time is spent out in the sun on the beach or in downtown Auckland with Alanna. I’ve even taken some time to do various portraits of friends here for a personal project, which will eventually turn into a new promotional piece. These sort of vacations from your hectic work schedule are healthy – but of course it doesn’t mean you should do nothing the whole time. Just because you take a vacation doesn’t mean your marketing has to as well.
Something that every photographer struggles with is how to price themselves. Most of the time, they under-price themselves because they are scared that someone will say no. The problem with this is that it hurts the entire industry. If you set a new low for portraits (I’m looking at you, Craigslist photographers) you will be setting a new low for expectations of photographers and the services that we provide.
And our services are valuable.
Photography is everywhere, this is a very visual time whether it’s photo or video, and people that can provide this service well get paid well.
Start with some research. See what other photographers in your area are charging, because it’s different from city to city. You can’t charge a New York rate in a Mississippi town. Have yourself a minimum rate that you will go and shoot for, and you can figure out that minimum rate using the ASMP’s cost of doing business calculator.
Keep in mind that you will NOT be shooting 365 days a year, so it’s important that the work you take can pay your expenses on days that you’re not shooting. Which brings me to my next point:
Don’t charge by the hour. You will ALWAYS be selling yourself short, unless it’s some sort of event photography in which case you should have a minimum time for. Take for example, you charge 75.00 an hour and you’re heading out to shoot a portrait of a business man. His people have given you one hour with him but it takes you 10 minutes to do the portrait. His people will then decide to pay you for only 1/10 of your time. It happens.
If you can do a shoot in 10 minutes that was thought to take an hour to complete, this means that you are very skilled and should be paid more, am I right?
You should also remove the term “Day Rate” from your business vocabulary as well. It comes down to a time issue – if a client has you for 8 hours and you’re done shooting in 3 they have you for another 5 hours – which is time you could be spending managing your business.
And that’s what photographers are, businessmen. You have to know your numbers and be able to set your rates competitively. Don’t fly into the market and undercut your competition – that’s just tacky. Research, and price fairly. Are you better than a mall photographer with one of those “studios” in the middle of the floor? Then charge more. People will eventually come around and see that they get what they pay for.
I’ve been going through my photo archives lately, for nostalgia’s sake, and I came across this classic gem of a photo that was sort of my trademark image back in my gallery days:
So I’m offering it up as a free print give-away. 11×14, signed by yours truly. You can be entered to win it simply by linking to this blog post in your blog, or re-tweeting my tweets about it on twitter. Be sure to email me (Robschultze@gmail.com) if you blog about it, otherwise I may not know you did so. The only rule is that you MUST tell your friends and link them here, so if you don’t have a blog post it on Facebook or something and send me a screen-cap. The winner will be announced on March 1st, 2010 and I imagine you would receive the print within a week or two. Good luck everyone!
If you’re new to the world of professional photography, you probably have a lot of questions. If you’ve been in the game for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that things are changing.
So what follows is the first of 2 parts on my advice on how to survive in these times of 65 megapixel cameras, VDSLRs and social media.
1. Know how to use your camera
When we get a new camera, we’re excited. We run outside or to the studio with it and shoot great pictures. The thing is, there’s a lot your camera can do that will not only make your pictures better, but there’s a lot your camera can do besides taking pictures. Open the manual. Read it from cover to cover. Know what to do when you get that “ERROR34″ code. You will feel much more confident in your ability to shoot, problem solve, and you will generally handle yourself in a more professional manner.
2. Shoot constantly
With your manual all worn out and dog-eared, you can now begin to shoot. Shoot everything, take your camera everywhere. If your camera’s too big or too heavy, invest in a point shoot with a manual mode so you can keep your eye and skills sharp. Camera phones work fine for this as well, as long as you shoot constantly.
3. Shoot RAW
RAW is the most powerful file format for digital cameras. The editing possibilities are endless. There are plenty of free RAW converters out there, and Adobe’s Camera RAW is second to none. Learn it, use it, feel the power.
4. Know what you’re good at
In the beginning, you shoot everything. Portraits, still life, landscape. You need to specialize and develop a look for that specialty, or you won’t get hired. You can’t be good at everything, so you should focus on one area and master it.
5. Multiple Revenue streams
So you shoot portraits, what else can you do to make more money? You could try and teach a class on it, you could look into stock photography or you could have a gallery show. Find other ways to make money on your talent and ability. Teaching and seminars or lectures can be very rewarding, and a lot of schools and organizations need speakers on digital media because it’s changing so much and becoming so big. Stock photography, if you can get into it, can make you money on your photos while you focus on other things. It’s not guaranteed to pay your mortgage but it’s a good way to get your images in the public eye. Another thing is galleries, look into exhibition space in your area and what you have to do to get involved. There are many other ways to make money on your photography, sit back and brainstorm.
6. Never sell yourself short.
Set your rates and stay firm about them. You should never be ashamed of what you charge, you should come out and say them right away. You offer a great service at a great rate. NEVER give a “ballpark estimate.” You will miss something and end up under-cutting yourself. In these times you may need to be a bit flexible for yourself. Set a minimum and work for no less. If you’re not sure what to charge do some research on your competition. Don’t be a jerk and undercut everyone else. Be fair to yourself. As soon as you start shooting portraits for 50.00 you not only hurt yourself, but you hurt the market.
On friday I will post Part II. Stay tuned!
Those of you who have visited my website in the last 2 weeks have probably noticed something a bit different. My name now appears in between two brackets and the brackets are a prominent feature throughout my website, outlining both my bio info, contact details and descriptions of projects or bodies of work. This is the fruition of years of searching not only for a graphic that best represents me, but also searching for a visual style in my photography.
This arrangement of text and characters represents my obvious taste for things that are dramatic yet subtle, while being overall clean and thought out.
Branding is important for any business today, with everyone having a website and crying out for attention. A brand is your identity, and it’s what people will use to remember you, whether you have a graphic logo or a simple arrangement of text like me. I have explored graphic logos in the past and just didn’t feel comfortable with how they represented me, so I chose a specific font – two of them in fact, and went forward from there. The font is the voice that your clients will “hear” upon reading your name and information, so it’s important to pick one that best represents your work.
I then used the subtle graphics – the brackets – for certain things on the site. I didn’t want to use them for everything, like framing every photo in every portfolio with them, that would be too much. But using them in descriptions works well, and it’s a subtle reminder of who’s work you are looking at.
Branding takes a long time. Make some designs or come up with some ideas of your own. Show them to friends, family, peers, anyone who will look at them. If necessary, go to a graphic designer – this is what they are paid to do.
Over time, people will come to remember this logo or brand, so make sure it’s everywhere your business is. Business cards, promos, etc. It will make your work more recognizable and your clients take you more seriously.
“The Faces of Fashion” is a project I have been wanting to take on for about 2 years. It reflects upon the unattainable standards set by the fashion industry for men and women alike. Last week, I spent an entire day on the project, including some shopping, some food, and a whole lot of shooting. Check out the behind the scenes video below!
You can see the entire “Faces of Fashion” series at my newly updated website:
When I’m working, I get paid to shoot portraiture, editorial and still-life/ads. My clients want to see my best portraits, my best campaigns, and my best still life images. The problem with this is that still life and portraiture is not solely what I do. I dabble in fine art and fashion a lot, but if a client sees a portfolio filled with fine-art work and they need portraiture, they are bound to look elsewhere to someone with a portfolio more catered to what they need.
So what do you do with all of these extra images? Someone somewhere wants to see those photos. This is where “Microsites” come in. A microsite is usually a single page devoted solely to a project that does not fit in with the rest of your portfolio. Of course, your name is attached and a link to your full portfolio should be prominent on the page. One of my favorite microsites is “We are sleeping giants” by Brooks Reynolds.
Think of a microsite as your own personal art gallery – design it exactly how you want it, not how you think a client would want it. This is all about you. They are great marketing tools, they show potential clients that you are diverse without middling up your portfolio. As such the target audience for your microsite is… well, anybody and everybody!
I’m currently working on a microsite for my project “Lost and Familiar”, some of the images you have seen on this site before:
The point here is to get the word out on this series of 12 images. You should have a personal goal with a microsite, not simply to show people what else you can do. My goal here is to shop the series around to art galleries, and maybe catch the eye of some art directors.
Check out some other great microsites HERE.